The retired generals and admirals of Mission: Readiness urge Congress to resist efforts by special interests to weaken or delay the implementation of science-based school nutrition standards as it begins its annual agriculture appropriations process.
We all know that obesity rates among children have increased dramatically in recent decades. This is not only a serious health concern for these children, it has also affected who can join the military:
· More than one in five young Americans is too overweight to enlist.
· Being overweight or obese is the leading medical reason why young adults cannot join the military.
Good nutrition starts at home, and parents play the central role. But with kids consuming up to half of their daily calories while at school and out of sight of their parents, nutrition experts and the Institute of Medicine have said that schools should be a focal point in the nation’s effort to combat childhood obesity.
In 2010, the retired generals and admirals of Mission: Readiness strongly supported passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This historic, bipartisan legislation required the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update nutrition standards for school meals and for snack foods sold in school vending machines and cafeterias.
Schools across the country are now successfully serving healthier meals to students. We are encouraged by recent data showing that more than 90 percent of schools are meeting science-based nutrition standards set forth by the USDA. Given the national security implications of child obesity, it is vital that we continue to make headway on this front.
To help schools more efficiently serve healthier meals, we also support the continuation of resources for school equipment grants.
“We are at an important juncture. Schools are capable of serving healthier foods and the vast majority are already doing so,” said retired Major General Tracy Strevey, Jr., MD, former Commander of U.S. Army Health Services Command. “Congress should resist efforts to derail continued implementation of science-based nutrition guidelines for school meals and snacks. Together, we can make sure that America’s child obesity crisis does not become a national security crisis.”